Protocol for community-wide messages, statements, media responses, and individual responses from the president
Earlham’s Principles and Practices provide the foundation for the president’s approach to communications. The following protocols reflect behaviors and considerations that the president expects from herself and others, including:
- Respect for all persons — including those with whom you disagree
- Peace – a commitment to nonviolence in words as well as deeds
- Integrity – ensuring that you are speaking truth, and in a way that is attributed (owning your words)
Earlham’s president will communicate regularly with the community in a variety of formal and informal ways, including faculty meetings, the weekly video update, the College’s official social media channels, and emails to students, faculty and staff.
It is important for the president to hear and understand the questions and concerns of the Earlham community. Comments, questions and suggestions are encouraged and will inform the work of the president and the president’s cabinet.
The president receives many requests to speak about specific issues. The voice of the institution’s leader is a powerful tool for communicating during good times and bad and the president will use this voice when appropriate. However, the overuse of the president’s voice can lead to an expectation that the president should personally respond to a broad range of issues or national and world events, even those that do not directly affect the Earlham community. Such frequent presidential messaging may undermine the regard and importance of a president’s message in times when it especially needed and warranted and create an expectation that the president “should” respond to every situation, thereby de-emphasizing the importance of other voices in the community.
In certain instances, a response may not be immediate as the president contemplates the situation at hand, works to discern truth and considers concerns of the broader community.
The following are examples of some, but not all, of the situations that may merit a statement directly from the president:
- Crisis situations directly affecting Earlham’s campus and/or community (students/faculty/staff/alumni):
An internal communications protocol has been established for use during emergency situations on campus, including a serious crime, a weather-related situation or a major disruption to operations. RAVE Alerts — delivered simultaneously via email, text message, and phone call — are the first communications people will receive. As time and circumstances allow, the president may opt to follow up with the campus community to provide a broader update and share additional key information and emotional support, when warranted, during response and recovery. At times, a message from the vice president (or dean, director or coach) who oversees the area most closely connected to the situation is more appropriate.
In the event of a crisis situation that results in inquiries from external media, the first point of contact should be the Office of Marketing and Communications (Brian Zimmerman, director of media relations, [email protected]). Depending on the topic at hand, the Office of Marketing and Communications may comment on behalf of the institution, refer a news reporter directly to the president, or recommend a campus community member with specific expertise. The Office of Marketing and Communications’ primary goal is to connect media with the best campus source of information whenever possible, rather than issue a statement or respond through a spokesperson.
- A tragedy that involves direct impact to individuals or groups in the College community:
In many cases, administrators other than the president can and should serve as primary messengers for internal audiences. This applies especially when a situation involves a specific audience in the College community and the area vice president or dean is the most informed source of information. For example, on matters specific to the student body, the vice president for student life may serve as messenger, while the vice president for academic affairs/provost likely will serve as messenger on matters related to academics or faculty.
It is expected that administrators, senior leaders in particular, will coordinate plans and share draft communications with Cabinet, specifically the Vice President of Marketing and Communications, before messages are sent to broad constituencies (i.e. alumni, students, faculty, parents, campus listservs, etc.)
In any situation when members of our community may be worried or affected, the Office of Student Life will reach out directly to students to make sure that they have the support they need; the same holds true for the Office of Human Resources when faculty and staff members are directly affected.
Events or other gatherings to demonstrate support and concern and to share perspectives are encouraged. These events often will be organized at the “grass-roots” level and organically by faculty members or student groups, though there may be instances when an all-College gathering is warranted and appropriate (such as 9/11).
- The death of a member of the Earlham community:
In most cases, the chaplain and director of Quaker life will notify the campus community (including faculty, staff, trustees, alumni and students as appropriate), in consultation with an individual’s family (when feasible), about the death of a retiree, trustee, student or faculty or staff member. In some cases, the chair of the Board of Trustees, president or another member of cabinet may also send a message.
- A tragedy with no direct connection to a member of the Earlham Community:
The president will consider responses to broader events on a case-by-case basis, and may acknowledge these tragedies and hold their victims in the light as part of her regular communications with the Earlham community. Additionally, in keeping with Earlham’s approach to practicing community, we encourage members of the community to respond to national or global events in a way that considers the wellbeing of others and reflects our shared values of peace and justice. This could manifest in a gathering of solidarity or peaceful protest, a vigil, or a community conversation.
- Matters that are related specifically to the president’s strategic priorities
- Matters that have a direct impact on the College’s relationship with the city of Richmond and/or the neighborhood surrounding campus
- Media responses or interviews:
The president is committed to maintaining a strong relationship with external news media, and will be available to discuss matters of strategic importance or high-profile initiatives (e.g. the academic enterprise, national and regional trends in higher education, initiatives related to diversity, equity and inclusion, College finances, new initiatives such as the Ivy Tech articulation agreement or Heartland Scholarships).
Whether a reporter is working on a tight deadline, reporting time-sensitive news related to Earlham, or working on a longer-term feature, the first point of contact should be the Office of Marketing and Communications (Brian Zimmerman, director of media relations, [email protected]). Depending on the topic at hand, the Office of Marketing and Communications may refer a news reporter directly to the president or recommend a campus community member with specific expertise. The Office of Marketing and Communications’ primary goal is to connect members of the media with the best campus source of information whenever possible, rather than issue a statement or respond through a spokesperson.
- Responses to social media posts:
Calls for response on public or private social media pages will not be addressed by the president. If necessary, other members of Earlham’s Cabinet or Board of Trustees may respond only to correct erroneous information or to clarify a misstatement. If the postings disregard Principles and Practices, particularly related to integrity and respect for persons, they will not merit a response.
- Instances when no response will be given:
In circumstances that involve sensitive information or information that is not disclosable by law (e.g. personnel matters, allegations of or investigations into Title IX violations, allegations of or investigations into criminal activity, situations in which commentary would result in a FERPA violation), the president will not comment, nor are any members of the faculty or staff authorized to comment.
CHANNELS OF PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATION
Multiple channels of communication are available for sharing presidential messages, statements or other responses. The appropriate channel(s) will be used depending on the content of and intended audience for the message; email, for example, is reserved for instances when a message must reach every member of a stakeholder community (i.e., all alumni, all staff and faculty, all students or parents), whereas social media may be used to further disseminate an important message or share good news).
- Collegewide email (or video in specific circumstances) directly from the president
- Statement issued through the Office of Marketing and Communications for attribution to the president.
- News release on the College website
- Other media managed by Marketing and Communications, such as the president’s weekly update; the College’s official Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter channels; the news website. Additionally, there are Earlham-affiliated channels that are managed independently (Earlham School of Religion accounts, Friends of Earlham College on Facebook, Earlham alumni accounts, etc.)
- Message posted to the president’s website (major messages will be archived on the president’s page for ongoing reference)
Adapted with permission from DePauw University